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This week was supposed to be a week of feverish expectation. The long awaited return to prominence for the Crosstown Shootout. The first shootout between ranked teams in what feels like a decade, though its probably not even that long. Instead the Bearcats failed to live up to expectations early in the season dropping games to Presbyterian and Marshall in thoroughly disheartening fashion. Is going to head north to the Cintas Center at 4-2, unranked in either poll, only receiving votes in the coaches poll. The question on everyone's mind is simple, what happened?
There is no real answer to that questions. Not one that combines all of the various disparate factors that have contributed to the two losses and generally sloppy play. The best answer, or the one that comes closest to explaining everything would probably be that this team, this group of Bearcats have no identity. No underlying conception of how each game should be approached, neither offensively or defensively.
Last year the M.O. for UC was thus.
On defense we are going to press you into submission. Should that not work we will settle into half court, man to man defense. Should that not work we try zone and if that fails congratulations, you beat us. Offensively we will be patient and methodical and will always work for the best available shot.
It was rarely pleasing to the eye, but it usually got the desired result. In contrast here is my take on the M.O. of this team as I see it.
We'll just play Basketball
To my mind the lack of a clear and concise identity plays a huge role in the long 5 or so minute stretches where the Bearcats could accurately be accused of losing the plot as the British would say. UC has had one of those stretches in every game this year, even in the exhibition part of the schedule.
It could even be a case of the team having multiple identities because there have been stretches in games where UC has put on clinics, like the end of the Georgia game for example. UC shot 45 per cent from the field in the second half of that game after shooting 33 per cent in the first half. The offense was more crisp 8 second half assists, compared to 2 in the first half. Looking at the box score it is hard to tell that the same team played in both halves of that game.
And that is the issue with this team right now, there is no identity. No one or no thing that the team can hang their collective hats on in times of adversity. Last year that hat got hung on defense and rebounding, but that won't work because UC is not a good defensive team this year, not in crunch time at least. And certainly not relative to last years bunch. But the offense isn't good enough to carry the team the way the defense did last year, although the potential is there for this to be a good offense its not there. To me it is clear that this is a team in transition, one struggling and striving to create a new identity. And it really sucks to watch it happen as a fan.